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Full text of "The two alternatives, or "What is coercion?""

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Ireland No- 13.] 




We are told that we must give Ireland Home Eule, because 
the only alternative is "coercion." What is this terrible 
alternative ? 

" Coercion" means force — in this case enforcing, or 
obliging the subjects of the Queen to obey, the law of the 


Is there no coercion in England and Scotland ? Yes ; for 
Englishmen and Scotchmen are forced to pay their debts, are 
sent to prison for stealing, and other crimes, and are hanged 
lor committing murder. These are all forms of " coercion." Why 
should not Irishmen also be forced to pay their debts, and be 
punished when they commit crime and outrage ? 

It is true that in the past both Liberal and Conservative 
tjiovernments have resorted to objectionable forms of coercion 
— such as imprisoning men on suspicion, without trial. But no 
Liberal proposes now to repeat this mistake. Liberals who 
object to Home Eule only propose to maintain law and order in 
Ireland by methods of coercion w T hich might be equally well 
applied to England and Scotland, without injuring any law-abid- 
ing man. 

What are the provisions of the Crimes Act, which Mr. Glad- 
stone himself in May, 1885, "deemed to be both valuable 
and equitable/' and by which Lord Spencer was able to 
restore and maintain law and order in Ireland during the years 
1882—5 ? 

This is how Mr. G. 0. Trevelyan (Lord Spencer's Chief Secre- 
tary, and himself an ardent reformer and friend of liberty) 
described them to his Scotch constituents : — 

11 In last June, Mr. Gladstone and his Cabinet determined to 


maintain the law in Ireland. They resolved to have a preliminary 
investigation on oath into undetected crime, which you have in 
Scotland. They resolved to have power of changing the scene 
of a trial from a locality where public feeling was too strong for 
that trial to be a fair one ; a power which you have in Scotland. 
They resolved to call a special jury in cases of crime, as a substi- 
tute for the far more potent and effective system of convicting" or 
acquitting by a majority of jurors, which you have in Scotland. 
They resolved to allow a summary sentence of a few months to 
be inflicted for crimes of violence and intimidation by two 
stipendiary magistrates, who answer in essential respects to 
your Scotch sheriffs. That is Coercion ! That is the 
system, greatly effective as a check on crime, but absolutely 

without any terror or danger to law-abiding 

Citizens/' (Mr. Trevelyan at Galashiels, May 7, 1886..) 

Compare this coercion by law with the far worse forms ot 
coercion practised by the Irish National League, with boycotting 
and outrage. How did Mr. Gladstone himself describe hoy 
cotting? : — 

"* Boycotting ' is combined intimidation made use of foi 
the purpose of destroying the private liberty of choice by fear 
Of ruin and Starvation." (Parliamentary Debates, May 
24, 1882.) 

If Ireland gets Home Eule the leaders of the National League, 
the authors of boycotting, will become the heads of the Irish 

These, then, are the real alternatives— not Home Baft 

or coercion; but coercion by the Queen's law, or 
coercion by the law of the National League. The 

former only destroys the liberty to do wrong ; the lattui 
destroys the liberty to do right. 

Which shall we choose P 




Published by the Liberal Committee for the Maintenance of the 

Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland., 

35, Spring Gardens, S.W.